4,000 meters is an unrecognized altitude threshold within the United States. However, it is as well known where the metric system is used, as 14,000 feet is known in the US. This page is dedicated to climbing those peaks in Colorado that rise above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet)

Monday, July 7, 2008

What We Did for our 4th of July Vacation - Humboldt Peak

What a great time and what great timing. Don, Sara, and I had planned on climbing Humboldt Peak while Mike and Erin were out in California climbing Mt. Whitney. I received a text from Erin that indeed she and her dad had successfully summited Mt. Whitney on July 1st. At that time, and for a few days after that both Mike and Erin needed some recovery time after a very long and difficult ascent up the lower 48's highest peak.

But it soon became clear that our time lines would allow them to meet us in Westcliffe if they decided to climb Humboldt...which after some needed down time they did. We met in Westcliffe on the evening of the 3rd and had pizza at Pizza Madness. This was the first time that the "core" Platinum Team would hike together since Missouri Peak September 2007.

After some final planning and hearing stories and seeing pictures of Mike and Erin's climb up Whitney, we hopped into our cars and drove to the Humboldt 2WD trailhead where we then somehow piled a total of five people and one small Jack Russel Terrier, Callie, and all of our gear into Don's Cherokee. We drove up the 4WD drive road banging our heads together as Don gingerly made his way up towards the trailhead 5.5 miles away.

Finally we emerged into a clearing where there were several vehicles parked at the trailhead. We surveyed the parking area and started talking to a guy. I didn't get his name but he gave us some GREAT beta.

First off; he pointed us to a supreme camping spot and then even better he showed us a slightly different trail up Humboldt that cut off a good bit of distance from the "standard" 14ers.com route and also avoided a good bit of snow. The camp site was just off the trailhead of this new route, which joined the standard route right at the southern South Colony Lake.

We started hiking on the morning of the 4th to a bluebird day at about 6:30am. All five of us, and Callie, left camp with blue skies and optimism with scenery that is some of the best I have seen in Colorado. With the Crestones, Broken Hand Peak, and the South Colony lakes for company we started up towards Humboldt's western saddle. At right, Erin pauses to take in the views of Crestone Needle and the South Colony Lakes.

We crossed a few well consolidated snow fields and headed up the steep grade towards the Humboldt Saddle. The weather was perfect and everyone was feeling great. The switchbacks up to the saddle were long and tedious but we climbed through them in a relatively short amount of time. From the saddle we had a good view of the remaining hike up Humboldt's west ridge to the false summit.

We started up the long west ridge which was mostly class 2+ hiking with some trail segments and some easy class 3 scrambling. The route was well marked with cairns. We stopped a few times to rest, take pictures, or watch Callie try to rustle up some fun with a Whistle Pig (Marmot).

The final pitches up the west ridge were a blast. Just enough scrambling to make the climb interesting. We skirted just below the false summit following the well marked path through the boulders and talus.

This picture of the group was shot below the false summit looking back down towards the South Colony Lakes and the Crestones. You can see the chunky blocks of rock that made up this portion of the hike. Now and then Sara would have to pick up Callie to help her up a particularity high step that she could not jump. All-in-all that tiny dog pretty much cruised all the way up the mountain without any problems.

The weather was still perfect as we passed just below the false summit. The rest of the climbing group moved ahead of me as I slowed to shoot pictures and enjoy where we were.

While the terrain was rough on the upper ridge, the grade had eased somewhat making the traveling a little easier.
We eventually reached a short flat saddle between the actual summit and the false summit.
To the north of the trail the drop-off was deadly, which was fine as long as you didn't, "drop off." It was the kind of thing that was safe as long as you didn't go wandering. I would not want to try this at night however.

We strolled along this portion of the climb with the weather showing blue skies and just a few friendly fair weather cumulus clouds. The final steps to the summit were beautiful. The surrounding landscape was amazing with views of several other 14er ranges, the San Louis Valley, and the lands to the East of the Sangre de Cristo range.

We set up on the summit for some food, drink, and rest, and a lot of picture taking. As I approached the summit I looked down at Callie who was standing near what looked like some sort of party hors d'oeuvre made up of some sort of meat and cheese rolled together into a log. I asked Sara, "What the hell are you feeding that dog." Sara looked down and answered, "Apparently too much!"

All of those ingredients had gone into Callie without much chewing and then came back up and out in a nice neat meat and cheese hors d'oeuvre log. No worries though. Callie finished it all up before we left.

Looking west from the summit we had an unbelievable view of the Crestones (left) and Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak (right) with the summit team in the center foreground in a rock shelter.

Still the weather was perfect. Just a hint of clouds and a slight breeze.

We all posed for our summit shot with the Crestones in the background. Don, Sara, Callie (the dog), Erin, Mike, and me. This was Sara's first 14er and she did perfectly. Sara cruised right up with a minimum of whining. The team hopes Sara will join us on more hikes. And I think she caught the 14er bug on this trip.

Now...If you have read the blog below on our Bierstadt warm-up hike you know for some inexplicable reason I tend to run into a lot of folks from Ohio (specifically Cincinnati) at the the tops of these 14ers. Well, when the team got to the top of Humboldt we had the summit to ourselves. Indeed a treat in and of itself. However, as we got ready to descend two other guys showed up. We talked for a few minutes and gave them some info about the shortcut to the trailhead. Just as we were leaving, on a whim, I asked, "Anyone here from Ohio?" One of the guys answered, "I am."

We all busted out laughing as it had happened again. To make matters more improbable not only was he from Ohio, but specifically Cincinnati! In fact he still lived there and was visiting Colorado just to climb.

On the way down we paused a few times for a quick break to take in the views before we were too low on the mountain. The lighting had changed since early morning and in this later portion of the day the scenery took on a very different look from earlier. The Crestone ramparts looked so massive as to be almost unnerving in their size.

As we descended near the lower portion of the trail close to the South Colony Lakes we spotted a heard of curious Big Horned Sheep. They were milling about munching on the local flora and keeping an eye on us.

We shot a few quick pictures of the sheep and then we continued down the lower and less steep portion of the trail towards our camp site. As we neared the sheep they cautiously walked and jumped up towards the Humboldt saddle.

This hike was definitely, for me, in my top 3 as far as fun hiking and great scenery. The company was great and luckily all the logistics worked out perfectly. It was great to finish Humboldt. I had previously thought this peak to be undoable due to the rough 4wheel drive road in. But Don (and Becky) made this hike possible with the use of their capable Jeep Cherokee.

Parting Shot
And until the next hike...This is The End!
GPS Route:

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